I have never felt particularly close to Patagonia, the outdoor apparel brand. Perhaps this was because of my childhood that lacked the craze for outdoor activities and the gear that goes with them. My parents are not to blame – the area of my hometown, Budapest, or Hungary for that matter, does not have the best offers for mountain climbers or serial hikers. The only time I would be somewhat close to being an “outdoorsy” person was when we visited Austria and would go for walks on mountain trails; even though we would have loved to, we could barely call our activity “hiking” or describe our gear with such adjectives.
So what changed? Not the hiking part, I can tell you that much. I still don’t go mountain climbing or take lengthy hiking trips, but I very much enjoy following Patagonia as a brand. There are multiple reasons for this, including their conscious brand-building efforts that begin with selecting and training the right employees and the philosophy of their current CEO, Rose Marcario.
I enjoyed reading about how Patagonia immediately gives its employees “a hands-on education in Patagonia’s active culture” in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. The article described the new habits of the company’s Vice President of Marketing, Joy Howard, who joined the apparel brand about a year ago. Colleagues urged her to broaden her workouts outside, so she now does trail running and surfing on a regular basis, telling me that it is not only senior executives who must lead the “Patagonia lifestyle.” It is very apparent to me that the company places huge emphasis on finding the right fit, someone who believes in the philosophy and will be happy to go out and share it. Such brand-building may not be obvious to every company today, but in my mind is essential to creating pillars, or in other words, brand communities who will be the strongest advocates of the lifestyle and gear that must come with it.
As of Rose Marcario, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Patagonia, I discovered her story while reading the February issue of Fast Company. She was interviewed by the magazine due to her unusual business initiatives. When taking a look at Patagonia’s strategy in the past years, one might not assume the tremendous growth the company has gone through since Rose Marcario joined.
Prior to her career at Patagonia, Rose fulfilled the Chief Financial Officer position at General Magic, a company that is often referred to as Apple’s mockup brand. She brought fifteen years of corporate finance and global operations experience with her when she joined the company in 2008. Since then she has fulfilled the roles of COO and CFO, and became President and CEO in early 2014. According to several sources, Patagonia has doubled its scale of operations and tripled its profits since Rose joined the outdoor apparel company. She stresses innovation and environmental initiatives, while continuing to work on global expansion. Some of Patagonia’s most recent unexpected moves include starting a venture capital fund and a new sustainable food line.
I am intrigued by Rose’s persona first and foremost because she is an incredibly successful woman in a powerful position, and because her leadership efforts and overall business philosophy appears to be different from the majority of CEOs today.